Sherman recalls himself to call plays
Rossley OK with his role
By ROB REISCHEL
Special to Packer Plus
Posted: June 15, 2005
Green Bay - Mike Sherman didn't send out a memo among his coaching staff.
Mike Sherman will be back in the middle of things, again calling all the plays for the offense this season.
But Green Bay's head coach made it official last week saying he will call the team's offensive plays again this fall. Packers offensive coordinator Tom Rossley had handled play calling duties for more than four seasons, before undergoing an angioplasty last Oct. prior to Green Bay's game in Detroit.
With Rossley sidelined that day, the Packers put up 38 points and 434 yards. For the most part, Sherman handled the play-calling from that day forward.
"We haven't talked about it yet," Sherman said of he and Rossley. "It's not something we've discussed a whole lot. There may be games he does it, maybe. But I'm going to continue to do what we did at the end of the season."
Under Sherman's guidance, the Packers' offense took off.
In the first six games Sherman called the plays - all Green Bay victories - the Packers averaged 439.3 yards and 33.7 points per game. Only once in that stretch did the offense fail to record at least 400 yards or 28 points.
Green Bay slowed a bit over the final five weeks of the regular season, yet still averaged 407 yards and 29.5 points in the 11 games Sherman called the show.
In the Packers' first five games - in which they went 1-4 - Green Bay averaged a respectable 376 yards per game with Rossley calling the offense. But they weren't capitalizing and scored just 19.8 points per contest.
"I enjoy it," Sherman said. "I know what the offense is capable of doing. And I think the Detroit game was a unique situation where we were really rallying the troops. We had to win, the guys were laying it on the line, making plays and it was more about players making plays than me making great calls."
During the four seasons Rossley ran the offense, it certainly functioned at a high level. Between 2000-'03, the Packers ranked 15th, sixth, 12th and fourth in total offense and were 11th, fifth, sixth and fourth in points per game.
The 2003 unit scored 442 points, the second most in team history and set a single-season rushing record with 2,558 yards. That team also scored 53 touchdowns - tied for the second most in team history - and had the NFL's second-best red-zone touchdown percentage (65.4%).
Rossley, who turns 59 in August, feels fine today and is working as many hours as ever. But because Sherman seemed to have a real knack for calling plays, Rossley apparently will be Wally Pipp-ed.
If Rossley's peeved about the lesser role on game days, he wasn't letting on last week.
"Whatever it takes to win," he said. "That's how I feel. I can't comment about it any more than that."
Sherman said his decision to take on an expanded role has nothing to do with Rossley's abilities or the job he did in that role.
"I'm still always sharing thoughts with Tom Rossley, all the time," Sherman said. "Tom's a part of this offense as much as anybody. He's done a fantastic job.
"The best game we ever called was the Seattle game two years ago (a 35-13 victory in Week 5 of 2003). Five straight touchdowns in five possessions. This has nothing to do with Tom Rossley, that's for sure. He's solid. We couldn't be more pleased with him."
Sherman had to be extremely pleased with the job he did though.
Although Sherman was Mike Holmgren's offensive coordinator in Seattle during the 1999 season, Holmgren did almost all the play-calling. So Sherman's play-calling skills were on display for the first time last season.
Sherman likely has several reasons to keep calling the plays.
First, he was awfully good at it. Green Bay set a franchise record for both passing yards (4,449) and total net yards (6,357), finished fourth in total yards per game and fifth in points per contest.
Just as important, though, Sherman might simply want to control as much of his own fate as possible. Stripped of his general manager duties this off-season, Sherman now enters the final year of his coaching contract. While he and Rossley are close friends, Sherman might have decided that with his future on the line, he's not willing to put a key part of it in someone else's hands.
"It was something I found I liked and want to continue doing," Sherman said. "One thing about us offensively, and I think the 49ers were the last team to do it in '88, but to break the franchise rushing record one year, then to come back the next year and break the passing record, that doesn't happen very often.
"It shows tremendous balance in the offense. Tom's the offensive coordinator and he's done a good job keeping us balanced."
For the time being, though, Rossley will take a backseat to Sherman when it comes to play calling.
Rossley works with Sherman to set-up the game plan each week. This involves a lot of review of the opponent's strengths and weaknesses. He also develops the plays that Sherman's calling.
During the game, Rossley stays in the booth to assess what's working on offense. From that vantage point, he can find where the defense might be strong and more importantly he can find weaknesses to exploit. This is a major part of his communication with Sherman during the game. From his perspective, both Rossley and Sherman can find the best plays to take advantage on the defense.
I like the set-up. During the game Rossley can concentrate on watching the offense and defense, while Sherman works on the next play. With Sherman calling plays on the field, he's got a better feel for the players and what might work best.
Because Sherman's greatest weakness is loyalty when it is not deserved. How else do you explain Rossley, Frank Novak (is he gone yet?), Bob Slow wit and his merry band of idiots, C. Hunt and Tyrone Davis.
Christ, do you have to make a pass at his daughter to get in his doghouse?
Not sure...but I think so. The Jacke/Holmgren's daughter rumor kinda cropped up when trying to make that point. Anywhooooo...I hope his loyalty to team supercedes his loyalty to old chums this season...because Rossley fails when the bullets are flying.